The Coolest Places Built by Humans

Man-Made Wonders

Have you ever seen a building or place that made your jaw drop? Somewhere that seemed too amazing to be real? Well, there are incredible places like that all over the world! Humans have been creating mindboggling buildings and monuments for thousands of years. A couple thousand years ago, people made a list of the best ones called the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” but there are so many others now that deserve that title too! Let me show you what I mean by taking you on a world tour of the grandest places you’ll ever seen before. Guaranteed your mind will be blown!

The Original Wonders

First, let’s go way back in time to learn about those original 7 Wonders. The only one still standing is the Great Pyramid in Egypt, which is the oldest and biggest pyramid on Earth! It was one of Pharaoh Khufu’s pet projects about 4,500 years ago. Just imagine – no cranes or trucks back then – they had to lug over 2 million massive stone blocks by hand to stack into a 455 foot high pyramid. It blows my mind how they built something so mathematically precise. They say the pyramid is lined up almost exactly with true north!

Some of the other long destroyed wonders are the hanging gardens of Babylon, and a giant lighthouse in Egypt called the Lighthouse of Alexandria. My absolute favorite old Wonder has got to be the Colossus of Rhodes, which was a 100 foot high golden statue of the sun god Helios, straddling the harbor entrance of Rhodes, Greece. Sailors could see it shining for miles and it must have seemed like a god was literally letting them into the city! Can you imagine sailors’ faces when they saw that for the first time?

Man-Made Wonders
Man-Made Wonders

World’s Best Cathedrals

Of course places of worship are often the grandest buildings in town. Two of my favorites are nearly 2,000 year old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Man-Made Wonders

St. Peter’s Basilica has to be the most magnificent cathedral on the planet. Its giant stone dome, built in the 1500’s, rises 400 feet into the sky! The entire space shuttle with boosters attached could fit inside! Popes for the last 500 years are all buried here too. Can you imagine a building so iconic and important in Catholicism that it houses centuries of dead Popes?!

Hagia Sophia has a wild history too. First built as an Orthodox church in 537, then converted to a dazzling mosque after the Ottoman Turks took over the city. Now it’s an art museum celebrating all faiths. The giant enclosed dome makes you feel tiny standing below it. If you’re ever in Istanbul I dare you to not get goosebumps walking inside.

Castles Fit for Royalty

If churches aren’t your style, let me tell you about two castles that royalty called home.

First, Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, built for “Mad” King Ludwig in the late 1800s, looks exactly like the palace in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty! Its soaring towers sprout from the forested mountainside like something from a fairy tale book. Can you envision a king so eccentric in his secluded Bavarian castle? What stories those walls would tell!

Second, there’s majestic Himeji Castle of Japan – considered the finest remaining example of Japanese castle architecture, with a network of tunnels defending it. After wars and fires and earthquakes over 700 years, the white walls and swooping eaves still resemble a graceful heron taking flight. I’d love to walk across its creaky wooden floors and peer through its tiny windows and try peeking out at visitors like a guard keeping watch for ninjas! If you’re visiting Japan, it’s a must-see.

America’s Towering Lady

Probably the most iconic statue worldwide has to be Lady Liberty watching over New York harbor. A gift of friendship from France in the 1800s, that 305 foot tall gal is a welcome sign to immigrants after long voyages. When I look at photos, I imagine how many millions of people reached America by ship, and the shining torch was the first bit of their new home they’d see. It still gives me goosebumps!

Some may argue no statue or building represents America more than the soaring Empire State Building. For 40 years after 1931 it was the tallest building on the planet! 102 stories and 1454 feet straight into the clouds. Even King Kong climbed it in the movies! I’d love to stand on that open-air observation deck during a lightning storm and feel like the real life king of the world for a few minutes. That’s an American icon right there.

Ancient Cities Carved in Stone

Of all the jaw dropping places, Petra has to be one of the most unique on Earth. Hidden in Jordan’s desert mountains lies an ancient city with buildings carved right into the pink cliffs. It feels like you walked onto an alien planet! As you pass through that famous narrow gorge, called the Siq, suddenly a towering building called “The Treasury” emerges, intricately carved out of solid rock. Who were the ancient people that did this and why? That’s part of this site’s magic – it leaves you asking questions! I want to ride a camel through this valley so badly and pretend I’m uncovering a lost civilization like Indiana Jones!

Farther east in India lies the intricate temples of Mahabalipuram – another open air museum of stone carvings, mostly Hindu Gods, Goddesses, and mythical beasts, chiseled straight out of giant boulders near the Bay of Bengal. What I love about wandering through this town is wondering about the incredible talent and effort required to produce such masterpieces. Looking at the carved elephants and exaggerated women’s bodies with different poses, I can just imagine artists sitting there for years with their chisels and hammers until emerging works of art sat before them, ready to last centuries. Exploring these massive creations made just with human muscle and patience gives me seriously awe and respect!

Nature’s Best Skylines

As much as I love man-made wonders, we have to give props to nature too for making such awesome places herself! One of my favorite natural wonders has to be Ireland’s amazing Giant’s Causeway – basically 40,000 interlocking columns of volcanic lava rock leading into the sea. Can you picture that in your mind?! According to legend, the rock formations are the remains of a causeway built by a giant for fighting another giant who lived on a nearby Scottish island. The stories probably sound silly today, but if you stood there on that crazy alien landscape can you imagine how they dreamed up tales of battling giants to explain it?

If amazing rock formations don’t blow your mind enough, how about a 5 mile wide, 1 mile deep, bright orange canyon gashed into the Earth? I’m talking about America’s Grand Canyon of course! It would take two million Empire State Buildings stacked on each other to fill that hole! I went rafting there once as a kid and I’ll never forget the gigantic scale and all those layered colors from 290 million year old rock.

Photos can’t capture the true vastness. You need to walk up to one of the edges yourself, peek over the rim down to that tiny river below and feel your knees shake! I love national parks and places that prove our planet itself is more incredible than anything we humans could construct.

There are honestly too many astounding places for me to list them all here – China’s Great Wall spanning almost 14,000 miles, those mysterious Moai heads of Easter Island, the leaning tower of Pisa that looks on the verge of toppling over, the Taj Mahal’s marble dome shimmering at sunset, the Eiffel Tower’s crisscrossing metal overlooking Paris….ah I could go on forever! What about you – have you been anywhere that blew your mind with its beauty or scale? Let me know if you have any other favorite spots! Maybe I’ll have to add them to my bucket list!

In Awe of Our Incredible World

I don’t know about you, but learning about these places leaves me in awe of both nature’s power and humans’ potential to build amazing structures when we set our minds to it. It makes me feel pretty small as just one person on this planet among billions, but also proud to be part of a species capable of such creativity, artistry and engineering skill when we come together. Our modern world has so many new technological wonders, which is great, but we should never underestimate the blood, sweat and generations of toil that ancient cultures put into their iconic landmarks that have withstood disasters and waves of civilizations.

Each monument, whether standing for 50 years or 5000 years, represents the spirit, culture and innovation possible when people pool their efforts. To me, these mind-blowing places are the best travel destinations because they fill you simultaneously with wonder and pride. Seeing our world’s icons should be on everyone’s bucket list! Let me know which ones are your top picks.

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